What’s going on with the coronavirus? What exactly is it and how do I know if I have it? And can it be prevented?

THE STORY: As you’ve likely heard, there’s been an outbreak of a new flu-like virus in China called the novel coronavirus. The virus is a newly discovered member of the coronavirus family that includes the viruses that caused the SARS outbreak. This just means that it spreads by jumping from animal to human and then mutate to spread human-to-human.  

I’VE SEEN A LOT OF SCARY STUFF IN THE NEWS. IS IT TRUE? While the World Health Organization did declare this virus a global emergency, that was done as an international call to assist smaller countries with less robust public health systems to help thwart the outbreak's spread. Out of approximately 9700 cases of the virus, only rough 98 are outside of China. There’s also a LOT of misinformation being spread so be careful to only used trusted sources for information.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE THE VIRUS? According to the CDC, symptoms range from none to fever, cough, and shortness of breath, and may also include symptoms typically found in these types of viruses such as respiratory issues, runny nose, headache, cough, and sore throat. Basically, this coronavirus can cause pneumonia - this is where risk of death comes in. If you’re already in poor health or have a lousy immune system, you’ll have a worse time.

HOW CAN IT BE PREVENTED: Essentially, you’ll do what you always do during cold & flu season - regularly wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, plus avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. Also, since this is a virus that originates in animals, be sure to thoroughly cook meat and eggs.

THE WRAP-UP: If you’re in the United States, honestly, you should be more concerned about getting the flu as most cases being reported outside of China concern people who were previously visiting there. And while the virus has reported approximately of 170 deaths so far, it’s important to note that the current flu season has reported approximately of 5,000 deaths. So, be cautious but don’t panic.

Want more information? Visit the CDC and WHO for updates.